Monday, September 16, 2013

More FAUW Burning Issue Updates

David Porreca, FAUW President

In this week’s blog post, I provide an update on some of the principal issues raised in last week’s post, with a particular emphasis on scheduling.

Reminders

2013 Hagey Lecture Poster
First, a reminder to attend CAUT’s “Get Science Right” inaugural town hall meeting at the Waterloo Public Library on Tuesday 17 September, 15:00-17:00.  Our own Melanie Campbell (Physics) and David DeVidi (Philosophy) are among the contributors to the discussion panel.  The main theme of the event – the first among many that will happen across the country – is the Federal Government’s excessive and ideologically-driven involvement in how science is funded, conducted and published in Canada.  Any faculty member who applies for federal funding for her or his research is affected by the changes that have been imposed upon the Tri-Council agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC), so this event is a crucial one for the future of primary research in our country.  Come join the discussion.

Second, a reminder to attend this Thursday’s Hagey Lecture, where Professor Margaret MacMillan (History, Oxford) will deliver a lecture entitled “Choice or Accident? The Outbreak of World War One”.  This free event is held in the Humanities Theatre in Hagey Hall20:00 on 19 September.

Online Expense Claims Colloquium

Planning is afoot for the fact-finding colloquium on financial data security in non-Canadian cloud-based servers.  The intent of this event – to be co-sponsored by FAUW, the Secretariat and the Dean of Mathematics – is to inform the University’s decision in purchasing an online expense claims system to replace the now bygone policy on per diems.  The target dates for this event will be 4 or 5 December.

Changeover in Administration & more general thoughts

In addition to the list of administrative positions that UW is seeking to fill that were mentioned in last week’s blog post, the Director of the Office of Student Success is also an important position that remains empty.  FAUW is alert to the impact that new people in positions of authority can have, and we are making sure that faculty interests are protected by having proper representation on all of the relevant hiring committees.

In fact, from the reports I hear at various OCUFA and CAUT meetings, it becomes clear that having good people on hiring committees is one of the most effective means faculty members have at their disposal to ensure that university operations function as they should.  By this I mean that the function of the university is to promote scholarship broadly construed, i.e., the dynamic interplay between research and teaching, faculty and students.  Basic job competency notwithstanding, those candidates for upper-level positions who can stand by that vision of a university are generally less likely to make decisions that are harmful to the academe.

New Scheduling System

As a result of discussions over the past week, I am pleased to report that the Registrar’s Office is planning to follow FAUW’s suggestion and supply faculty members with two alternative schedules using real-time data: one as the schedule currently exists using the old methodology, and a second one using the new Infosilem scheduling software.  The gathering of faculty members’ preferences between these two options will be coordinated through departmental scheduling representatives and funneled upward to the Registrar’s Office from there.  FAUW plans to make sure that the rationale behind faculty members’ expressed preferences also be taken into account.

The above good news notwithstanding, FAUW still faces a problem of perception when dealing with the implementation of this scheduling system.  Indeed, in our efforts to make sure that the old scheduling system does not get replaced with one that is worse than the system we currently have, FAUW has been perceived as being an obstructionist force.  FAUW’s consistent message has been that we want the new system to be better than what we currently have for all stakeholders and interests (students, administrative staff, faculty members and room allocation), and that it should not be allowed to go ahead until such time as it is demonstrated to all stakeholders’ satisfaction that it is in fact better.

Time allocation is every faculty member’s most critical zero-sum game, so this new scheduling system has the potential to be very disruptive to our work environment if it is not done right.  Having a scheduling system that is known to be disadvantageous to faculty members is a very effective anti-recruitment and anti-retention tool for top professorial talent (as was the lack of adequate daycare facilities, an issue that is about to be resolved in no small part thanks to FAUW’s intervention).  If UW is to live up to its claimed reputation as a top-notch research institution, it would behoove it to make sure it has a scheduling system to match.

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